During one particularly difficult period in my life, I woke three successive mornings with the phrase “Fine china is more beautiful when broken and put back together again” on my lips. “What?!” I thought, “my treasured tea cups would be prettier broken and patched up with some glue?” In that season of life, God demonstrated how Icould become prettier when broken and put together again, not with glue but with grace.
Years later I participated in a Bible study that offered the following reflection. You can imagine what I felt as I read the first line.
The Japanese art of kintsukuroi (pronounced kint-sook-er-oy) is the repair of broken pottery through the use of a gold lacquer to fill and bind the cracks. The practice originated, according to one Japanese legend, when a servant inadvertently broke his master’s prized vase during a party. Fortunately for the servant, one of the guests assuaged the master’s anger by devising a humorous poem about the vase. Seen in this new light – that the vase now had new character and a richer story – it took on greater significance. Its brokenness became the occasion for a deeper beauty. And so for centuries, Japanese craftsmen have restored cracked vessels with gold, in order to accentuate the beauty that emerges from the scars.
One way to look at the book of Romans is as the story of a Craftsman who relentlessly brings his beauty to every kind of brokenness. In his cosmic plan, wherever there is deformity, God sculpts a new loveliness; wherever there is sorrow, God creates a new bliss; wherever there is loss, God produces gain. And it is not just that God responds with beauty wherever there is hideousness. No, the truly breathtaking nature of his work is that it is through the cracks that God brings the beauty. He does not need to scrap what is broken; he does not lose what he has already made. On the contrary, he gathers the broken shards and conceives a new glory, a better future for every part of his creation.1
Before my own season of breaking, I mostly depended on my own merit, my own effort, my own plans. I loved God and trusted in Him for salvation, but I trusted in myself to define my life. When circumstances showed me that I was not in control, when I understood that my goodness fell far short of God’s perfection, when I saw that I was a creature subject to the Creator who had plans beyond my own, my perspective changed. I learned that I had limitations. I began to recognize how much I needed grace, and this all helped me in turn share grace with the people I encountered.
So when I catch myself worrying about suffering, pain, or sorrow, I remember that the Lord God can sculpt something from the shards of brokenness, and that He is big enough to use the brokenness in my life to create something beautiful for His eternal glory.
1 Palmer, Steve. Romans Devotional. St. Stephen’s Church, 2018. E-mail.